US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL's US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since January 2017 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For more information and an analysis of this data, click here. For information about our methodology, click here.

45 states have
considered
245 bills
38 enacted 40 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jun. 2, 2022 (Florida), Apr. 25, 2022 (Washington), Apr. 11, 2022 (Alabama)
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20 entries matching in provided filters in 11 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

HR 6653: Barring small business aid to individuals convicted of "riot" offenses

Would bar individuals convicted of “riot” offenses from receiving small business assistance from the federal government. The bill provides that a person convicted of a felony for actions during or “in connection with” a riot is prohibited from participating in any program run by the Small Business Administration, if the riot resulted in the destruction of a small business. The definition of “riot” under federal law is broad, requiring only a “public disturbance” where one individual in a group commits violence. An individual can be convicted of participating or inciting a “riot” based on conduct that was neither violent nor destructive. A host of actions of peaceful civil disobedience could also be construed as felonies “in connection with” a “riot.” Under the bill, individuals convicted of such offenses would become ineligible for support such as disaster relief loans, loans to avert hardship caused by COVID-19, and other small business assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Limit on Public Benefits

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Arizona

SB 1033: Enhanced penalties, new "mob intimidation" offense, and new liability for officials who restrain law enforcement

Would increase penalties for any offense committed "in furtherance of a riot or an unlawful assembly." Arizona law defines "riot" and "unlawful assembly" broadly; "unlawful assembly" for instance includes merely being present at a gathering that includes two people who intend to engage in a "riot," and refusing to disperse. Under the bill's proposed penalty escalations, someone who commits a serious misdemeanor in a way deemed to be "furthering" an "unlawful assembly" could face felony penalties. The bill also creates a new offense of "mob intimidation," defined as gathering with two or more people and using or threatening to use force "to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against the person's will." The new offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Finally, the bill provides that cities and towns have a duty to allow law enforcement to "respond appropriately" to protect property and people during riots and unlawful assemblies, and enables individuals to sue "for any damages" governing officials who breach that duty. If enacted, such provisions could deter local officials who might otherwise seek to limit aggressive law enforcement responses to protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Police Response, Riot, State Liability

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Illinois

SB 3814: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that involve trespassing onto infrastructure property. Under the bill, knowingly entering or remaining on a "critical infrastructure facility" is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and $25,000. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with "intent to damage, destroy, or tamper with equipment" in the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by 5-10 years and $25,000. The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines, including those under construction, and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Illinois

HB 3409: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters at public universities or community colleges in the state. The bill requires these public educational institutions to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction any "protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity." Additionally, the bill requires administrators to suspend for at least one year any student who is twice found to be responsible "for infringing on the expressive rights of others," such as through a protest of a campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Iowa

SSB 1140: Heightened penalties for "riot," "unlawful assembly," protests that block traffic, and defacing monuments

Would elevate "riot" from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Iowa law defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner," at least one of whom uses any unlawful force or violence against another person, or causes property damage. The bill would also elevate "unlawful assembly" from a simple misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, any of whom are acting "in a violent manner," and who intend that any of them will commit an offense. Under the bill, it is a serious (rather than simple) misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,875 fine, to "obstruct" a sidewalk, street, or "other public way" with the intent to hinder its use by others. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during an unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by 2 years in jail and a $6,250 fine. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during a riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. The bill also creates a new felony offense for intentionally defacing or altering public property, "including a monument or statue." The offense is a Class D felony. The bill provides that a sentence for the offense must include restitution for any damage to the property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Iowa

HF 251: New penalties for protesters, including those who block roads, and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would create a new felony offense of "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined to include a group of seven or more people that creates an immediate danger of property damage or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs" government functions or services. Joining or remaining part of a "violent or disorderly assembly" is a Class D felony, punishable by at least one and up to five years in prison. If an individual traveled from another state to participate in a "violent or disorderly assembly," it is a Class C felony, punishable by at least two and up to 10 years in prison. The bill provides for the termination of any state or local government employee who is convicted of engaging in a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill raises the penalty for unauthorized obstruction of any street, sidewalk, highway, or other public way, with intent to prevent or hinder its use by others. The bill changes the offense from a minor to a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the bill, if the obstruction takes place during an "unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, at least one of whom is acting violently, gathered with intent that at least one of them will commit an infraction. If the obstruction takes place during a "riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Iowa defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner" that "disturb[s]" other people, with any unlawful force by anyone in the group. The bill also creates new penalties for a person who performs any act "related to organizing, scheduling, or otherwise assembling" a group of people, knowing or with reason to know that they will intentionally obstruct a highway. Such a person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill establishes civil immunity for a driver who injures someone participating in an unpermitted protest or demonstration who is blocking a street or highway, as long as the driver was exercising "due care." The bill would create a new felony offense for protesters who "damage," "deface," or otherwise "alter" any public property, including a public monument. "Deface" is not defined, and could include temporary chalk messages. The offense would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 27 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Iowa

HF 430: Heightened penalties for protesters who block streets and sidewalks

Would raise the penalty for protesters who obstruct any street, sidewalk, highway, or other public way, with intent to prevent or hinder its use by others. The bill changes the offense from a minor to a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the bill, if the obstruction takes place during an "unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, at least one of whom is acting violently, gathered with intent that at least one of them will commit an infraction. If the obstruction takes place during a "riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Iowa defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner" that "disturb[s]" other people, with any unlawful force by anyone in the group. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Louisiana

HB 101: New legal justification for killing protesters

Would amend Louisiana's law on "justifiable homicide," allowing individuals who kill someone to be absolved if the killing was committed "for the purpose of preventing imminent destruction of property or imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct during a riot." If enacted, the provisions could encourage deadly confrontations at protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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Massachusetts

HB 1586: New penalties for protests that block roads

Would penalize "any person who intentionally blocks or prevents access to a public roadway or highway while protesting with the express purpose of preventing passage of others." Under the bill, anyone who intentionally blocked a public road in the course of a protest could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. This bill is near identical to HB 1428 introduced in 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

HB 1914: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would increase the penalty for obstructing a public street or highway to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A second offense would be a Class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison. If a person commits "unlawful traffic interference" on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable on the first offense by a suspended sentence of probation for five years, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $750. The offense of traffic interference on any public street, highway, or interstate highway while part of an "unlawful assembly" is a class D felony. For a first offence the court shall impose a term of supervised probation of five years, one hundred hours of community service, and a fine of up to $1,000. An "unlawful assembly" is defined under the bill as two or more persons meeting with the purpose of violating any law, which presumably could include the prohibition on traffic interference. The same bill was introduced as HB 1441 in the 2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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New Hampshire

HB 197: Legal defense for the use of deadly force against protesters

Would create a new legal justification for using deadly force against protesters. As introduced, the bill would expand New Hampshire's self-defense statutes to justify a person's use of deadly force against someone who they believe is "likely" to use "any unlawful force" while committing a "riot" against someone in a vehicle, house, or curtilage. The introduced bill justifies deadly force against someone who is "likely" to use "any" amount of force while committing "riot"--including against a third party. **Note: The bill was amended prior to its passage by the House, extending the self-defense justification to instances where deadly force against someone likely to use "any unlawful force in the commission of a felony against a person in a vehicle," rather than in the commission of a "riot".** (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 25 February 2021

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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New Jersey

S 1206: Expanded "riot" definition, new penalties for "incitement to riot", and new legal defense for people who hurt protesters

Expands the legal definition of "riot," a third degree offense under the bill, to include any group of three or more individuals whose shared intent to engage in disorderly and violent conduct results in "imminent danger" of property damage or personal injury, or actual damage or injury. Notably, the new definition does not require that the individuals' conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury. Under the bill, a "riot" consisting of 25 or more people, or one that "endangers the safe movement of a vehicle," is automatically an "aggravated riot," a new crime of the second degree under the bill. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Under the bill, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a crime of the third degree, punishable by 5 years in prison. "Aggravated incitement," which results if there is property damage over $5,000 is a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill also creates a new criminal offense of "mob intimidation," defined as a group of three or more people who act with a "common intent" to compel "or attempt to compel" another person to "do or refrain from doing any act," or "assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint" against their will. The offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill could also encourage violence against protesters by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant could avoid liability by establishing that the injury, death, or damage they committed "arose from" conduct by someone "acting in furtherance of a riot." Finally, the bill creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to provide "respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or unlawful assembly," making them civilly liable for damages, including personal injury or property damage. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The same bill was proposed as S3992 in the 2020-2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

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New Jersey

A 456 / S 84: HEIGHTENED PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC, RIOT, DISORDERLY CONDUCT, AND RELATED OFFENSES

Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in "disorderly conduct" or a "riot," punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both "disorderly conduct" and "riot" are defined broadly under New Jersey law: "Disorderly conduct," for instance, could include "recklessly creating a risk" of "public inconvenience" by causing a "hazardous condition," or using "unreasonably loud and offensively coarse" language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of "riot," such that a group of seven or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. The bill would create a new felony offense for disorderly conduct in a "place of public accommodation" that is committed during a "riot." It would also establish a felony offense for chalking or using graffiti on a public monument during an unruly protest: Current law penalizes purposely defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a "riot." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8342: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

Would create new mandatory penalties that could be applied against nonviolent protesters at all state and city colleges and universities in New York. Under the bill, a student that "materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others" would face a minimum one week suspension for the first offense; a minimum two week suspension for a second offense; a minimum one semester suspension for a third offense; and expulsion for a fourth offense. As such, a student protester that was deemed to interrupt a speaker at an event would be required to be suspended. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Oct 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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New York

A 5121 / S 4989: Heightened penalties for "incitement to riot"

Would increase the penalty for incitement to riot from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Under current New York law, a person can be convicted of inciting a riot if "he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm." The bill does not define what "urges" could include; similar language has been found by courts to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Ohio

HB 109: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic and other conduct during protests, and new liability for organizations involved in protests

Would heighten potential penalties for protesters who block traffic, by providing that engaging in "disorderly conduct" by blocking a public street or highway is a 3rd degree felony (instead of a minor misdemeanor) if it occurs during a "riot", or during a protest that was not granted a permit or one for which the scope of the permit was exceeded. Existing law defines "disorderly conduct" broadly, as "recklessly caus[ing] inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm," through means including "making unreasonable noise" or "hindering" movement of people on streets. "Riot" is also broadly defined under existing law as participating with four or more people in "disorderly conduct" with an unlawful purpose – to commit a misdemeanor, impede a government function, or interfere with lawful activities at an educational institution. The bill creates a new offense of "harassment in a place of public accommodation," defined as recklessly "harassing" or "intimidating" another at a place of public accommodation while engaged in a "riot". The offense is a 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill creates a new offense for "riot vandalism," for "recklessly" causing physical harm to property that is owned or leased by a government entity, or that is a monument, tomb, or "similar structure." The new offense is a 5th degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. The bill also provides that someone who causes any property damage or injury while committing "riot" is guilty of a 4th degree felony (instead of a 1st degree misdemeanor), punishable by a year and a half in prison and a $5,000 fine. The bill would introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots". Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger 2nd degree felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity. Finally, the bill would allow police to sue individuals for injury or property loss resulting from the individual's role in an "unlawful assembly" or "riot". Organizations that provide "material support" to the individuals would also be civilly liable, for treble damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Feb 2021; Approved by House 16 February 2022

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Traffic Interference

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Ohio

HB 22: New penalties for protesters who "taunt" police

Would newly criminalize "taunting" an on-duty law enforcement officer with "reckless disregard" as to whether the taunting diverts the officer's attention. The bill does not define "taunt," and as such the offense could cover protected speech and chanting by protesters that even momentarily distracts law enforcement. Penalties for the offense, which the bill would include under the crime of "obstructing justice," range from 90 days in jail and a $750 fine, to more serious felony penalties. Note: Later amendments removed the "taunting" provision from the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2021; Approved by House 25 June 2021

Issue(s): Police Response, Riot

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Ohio

SB 41: Charging protesters for the cost of property damage and the cost of law enforcement to respond to a protest

Would require that anyone convicted of "riot" or "aggravated riot" pay restitution for any property damage in addition to other penalties imposed. Additionally, the bill would allow law enforcement and other public agencies to seek reimbursement from a protester for all costs the agency incurred in responding to a "potential serious threat to public safety"defined to include a "validated report" report that two or more people are committing vandalism, "criminal mischief," or "aggravated riot." The agency could seek court-ordered reimbursement from anyone convicted of committing any misdemeanor or felony offense "in connection with" a "potential serious threat to public safety." In other words, the bill would allow a police department to seek compensation from a protester who was convicted of a simple misdemeanor, for the time spent by officers in responding to a report of "aggravated riot," even if no "aggravated riot" occurred. The bill would also create a new felony offense for vandalism on government property. Under the bill, intentionally "defacing, painting" or otherwise "marking upon" property owned, leased, or controlled by the government, even if only in a temporary manner, is a fifth degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Finally, the bill makes planning or "aiding in planning" vandalism of government property a new conspiracy offense" a first degree misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Security Costs, Riot

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Ohio

SB 16: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, and for protest funders and organizers

Would create new penalties for protests that took place on or spilled onto streets, sidewalks, or any other "public passage." The bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months year in jail and a $1,000 fine, to "impede" or render any public passage "impassable without unreasonable inconvenience" after being asked by an authority to stop. If the offense occurs as part of a "riot," it is a fifth degree felony, punishable by one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Ohio law defines "riot" to include engaging in "disorderly conduct" with four or more persons with the purpose of committing a misdemeanor, or to "hinder, impede, or obstruct a function of government" a definition broad enough to cover peaceful protests. The bill would also introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots." Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger second class felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity, as "material support" could cover donor funding to advocacy groups that engage in protests, or trainings for activists about peaceful protest tactics. Note: The version of the bill that passed the Senate removed the "material support" provisions and changed the obstruction of a public passage provision to require that the obstruction prevents an emergency vehicle from accessing a street and those obstructing the public passage have received and refused to obey a request to move. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 2 June 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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South Carolina

HB 3491: New penalties for protesters, and a shield for those who commit violence against them

Would create new penalties for offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The bill newly criminalizes the blocking of a street, sidewalk, or "any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances." Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it "unreasonably inconvenient" to use a street or sidewalk could face up to three years in jail. The bill also targets protest encampments on the grounds outside government buildings, by broadly defining "camping," and prohibiting camping on state property that is not designated for camping. As such, protesters who use any "piece of furniture" or erect tarps or other shelters on state property could be charged with a felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The bill amends South Carolina's law on "rioting" to require that anyone convicted of rioting - including "by being personally present [at], or by instigating, promoting, or aiding" a riot - be ordered to pay restitution "for any property damage or loss incurred as a result." Protesters could thus be liable for property damage that they did not cause, but were "present" for. Finally, the bill would create new criminal and civil immunity for a person who uses deadly force or points a firearm when "confronted by a mob," where "mob" is broadly defined. The provision may encourage the use of force and the incidence of violent confrontations in the context of protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference, Camping

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For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.